The better angels of our nature

“The better angels of our nature” was written by my colleague in Florida, Robert B. Clark .  I appreciated his perspective and thought you might too: 

    The United States of America is still, as Abraham Lincoln proclaimed to a divided nation in 1862, “the last best hope of earth”, then the spiritual health of our nation, looked over by “the better angels of our nature”, would seem pretty important to the world.

That’s why I was interested to read the Christian Science Monitor’s May 2 opinion piece titled, “Celebrating Osama bin Laden’s death is anti-American … and not very biblical”. The author, NYU professor of history and education, Jonathan Zimmerman, tells us,

“By celebrating death, even of someone as evil as bin Laden, we let our worst impulses trump what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” We look petty, juvenile, and small. We should be worried about that.”

The response to Zimmerman’s piece is a back and forth volley of support and detraction. Some are worried about the celebration of Bin Laden’s death; some not so much.

After reading the opinion piece and enough of the responses to see that there is strong disagreement with its content, I asked myself,

“How is the spiritual health of a nation affected by the celebration of death?” Celebrating the elimination of evil is healthy; celebrating human death is not.

The spiritual health of an individual or nation is the most important kind of health there is. Every other kind of health—moral, economic, physical—flows from spiritual health. It’s hard to see how celebrating the death of enemies is promotive of spiritual health.

The health of our political system, our economy and our health care system itself all seem a little bit shaky right now, so it’s a good time to nurture our individual and collective spiritual health.

Lincoln’s appeal to “the better angels of our nature”, invoked by Zimmerman in his opinion piece, are the last six words of his First Inaugural Address, delivered two weeks after Jefferson Davis’ Inauguration as President of the Confederacy. Lincoln no doubt had some idea of what the next four years would be like and what was at stake.

He knew a whole lot more almost two years later when he warned congress that, “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”

I’m glad the Monitor printed Zimmerman’s piece. I hope his appeal to “the better angels of our nature” will promote better spiritual health for our nation.

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